Spring Football: Footballs In the Air

STILLWATER - It was obvious during the first 20 minutes of Oklahoma State's first spring practice Tuesday that things are a tad bit different at Boone Pickens Stadium. We all knew they would be with the arrival of new offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen's pass happy, football flying version of the spread offense that has haunted opponents in recent years at Texas Tech and Houston.

It was also different seeing head coach Mike Gundy being more of an observer than offensive director. Gundy made the rounds but still was more of an observer of the offense.

Gundy, himself, noticed that instead of a vertical line where each quarterback took a rep throwing the ball, the quarterbacks were lined up horizontally with five receivers across and each quarterback threw the ball each rep.

"There were a lot of passes being thrown out there today," said Gundy with a little grin. "It was good to be back out on the field. Our players were very excited and our coaches were looking forward to being back out there. We had great weather today and lots of enthusiasm.

"We were very effective on both sides of the ball and got in some special team work. It was a good day."

As for his role, Gundy admitted it was different and it may take him some time getting used to.

"It was different," answered Gundy when asked how the practice was for him. "I'm not sure what I did or what I accomplished out there. I'm learning, learning the offense and it gave me 45 minutes to an hour during the practice to watch the defense. It was enjoyable for me to watch the coaches and see the young players developing."

There's a good reason that the Cowboys skipped the rainy day Monday and opted for the better weather on Tuesday. Holgorsen is confident that he can get the offense installed but every minute, every repetition is important in advancing the player's understanding and proficiency in the offense. As Holgorsen likes to say, it is a process.

"It is just a process and it will continue to remain a process over the next couple of years," said Holgorsen stretching it out to an extreme.

Actually Oklahoma State fans might remember that former offensive coordinator Larry Fedora said the same thing when he installed his version of a spread offense. He would often say it would be better the second year than it was the first, and better the third year than it was the second. It was, but in this offense there is the urgency to be good right out of the gate.

"The first step is just to teach them, teach 'em how to line up and what to do," continued Holgorsen. "The whole thing that this offense is based on is getting a firm understanding of what to do so that you are not re-teaching it each week.

"Once we get these kids settled in and at a specific position then it is just seeing how good we can get at it (running it). We want to get them lined up and they aren't thinking about it and know what to do and get them good at it," Holgorsen added.

If you are wondering about the week off for spring break after just one week of spring practice, well, join the crowd. Holgorsen says he has installed it that way before and said he actually prefers it.

"We did it this way my first year at Houston and I like it because you know we'll do the same thing the first three days this week and then we'll have in the base of the offense and we'll have a week off to kind of gather our thoughts and move some people around," said the former Mike Leach assistant.

"Then we'll come back after spring break and re-introduce it again. Each week (this spring) we are going to re-introduce the offense to them so it is going to be repetitive."

One thing that Holgorsen really feels is going to speed up the process is Brandon Weeden at quarterback. Another player he feels will electrify the offense is running back Kendall Hunter. The pieces Oklahoma State has for his puzzle are pretty good so far.

"You know having an older kid (at quarterback) in Weeden is really comfortable," expressed Holgorsen. "He really rallied the players to get them started learning this thing and run through plays before we started spring practice. He's got a live arm but right now there are no pads.

"The overall aspect of things has to be in a live situation. You have a guy like Kendall Hunter that is an older kid with an unbelievable work ethic and he has younger kids under him that see how he works and how he operates on a daily basis and having a leader like that is important. He doesn't say much but through work ethic and them seeing that it is getting us in the right direction.

"We have a lot of young receivers and just getting them lined up and like I said, we are going to find some guys that will make some plays for us," added Holgorsen.

"Anybody that takes time to learn the system and can make a play with the ball in their hand will get a chance," said Gundy of the guys on the receiving end in the offense.

Just from first impression the list of playmakers could include Justin Blackmon, who looks really good after what has been described by some as a strong offseason effort. Others such as Josh Cooper, Tracy Moore, speedster Isaiah Anderson and Colton Chelf looked good in early practice reps. Look out for little Nick Rockwell, who got loose deep a couple of times.

Weeden likes what he sees in the receiver corps. "Guys like Isaiah, he can really run and the system fits him perfectly," said Weeden of one option. "Get the ball in his hands in space and let him make plays, but he is not the only one.

"There are other guys like Blackmon, Coop, and Colton. This offense fits them perfectly and, like I said, we're excited about it and looking forward to the rest of the spring."

"Ahead of schedule right now as far as that is concerned," said Holgorsen of the receivers. "We're not real deep at receiver but they didn't bust many routes, didn't have any false starts. They caught the ball relatively well. We've got some guys that we can work with, but we've got to keep teaching them."

The progression rolls on Wednesday when shoulder pads come on, and then on Thursday, which will be the first day in full pads and the last day of practice before spring break.

Thanks to the rainy weather Monday, week one of spring practice will go bang, bang, bang, three days in a row. Considering the new offense and the potential explosiveness of it that schedule might be approrpriate.

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